The 2019/2020 NBA first-round playoffs kicked off earlier this week and have so far produced a lot of exciting and dramatic games. The First Round has also produced shock results from most of the games, with some of the team facing each other more than once already. One team that has struggled to make significant strides in the playoffs so far despite finishing the regular season well is none other than Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers have been abysmal in their first two games against Boston Celtics so far in the East First Round. Philadelphia 76ers lost the first game 109-101 against the Celtics before succumbing to a disappointing 128-101 loss in the second game despite building a 14-point lead in the first quarter. Both defeats have come as big surprises because the 76ers had already beaten the Celtics three times in the regular series before the playoffs.
Even in defeat, there haven’t been any positive takeaways from the 76ers’ performances against the Celtics so far. Despite boasting a talented roster, the 76ers have looked more like an average regular season instead of a playoff team. To be fair to the 76ers, the Celtics have been on top of their game since the series. However, the Celtics’ dominance so far has been as a result of the 76ers’ inconsistency and poor shooting. There is still hope for 76ers to make it past Boston Celtics and qualify for the next round if they manage to win four out of the remaining five games.
Will Joel Embiid get the support he needs upfront?
It is undebatable that Joel Embiid is one of the best talents in the NBA and the best player in the 76ers team. He has carried his impressive form into the First Round, averaging 30.0 points per game, 13.0 points per game, 2.0 assists per game, 1.0 steals per game, and 1.0 blocks per game in both games against the Celtics.
However, the 76ers’ first two games against the Celtics have also proven that Embiid can’t do everything on his own to ensure victory for his team to progress. Embiid’s 34 points and ten rebounds couldn’t save the Philadelphia 76ers from a 128-101 loss to the Celtics in Game 2 of the series.
For the 76ers to win the entire series, Coach Brett Brown will need the likes of Shooting Guard Josh Richardson and Small Forward Tobias Harris to step up and help Embiid. Josh Richardson was sloppy in certain moments in the 128-101 loss to Boston Celtics. With eight minutes remaining to the end of the third quarter, Richardson tried to throw an awful entry pass to Embiid, which went wide right for Boston Celtics center Daniel Theis to steal it, leaving Embiid frustrated in the middle easily.
A few seconds later, Embiid was left frustrated again as he waved again for a ball, only for Celtics’ guard Marcus Smart to end up getting a basket and a foul. It is clear that Embiid desperately needs all the help he can get from his teammates to give his team any chance of bouncing back from 0-2 deficit to win.
Will the 76ers finally manage to cope without Ben Simmons in the team?
It is no secret that Philadelphia 76ers have missed the services of Ben Simmons in both games against the Celtics. The 24-year old Australian is indefinitely out of action after sustaining a severe knee injury in a game against Washington Wizards. With Ben Simmons, the 76ers have a player who can quickly shut out Boston’s perimeter players in defense and offer a lot of pace going forward. Ben Simmons’ defensive strength combined with his speed has been beneficial for the 76ers on several occasions, allowing them to make quick transitions from defense to offense. He also featured prominently for the 76ers in the three wins over Boston Celtics in the regular season. Simmons’ absence has left a big void in the defensive department, which hasn’t been filled by any other player on Philadelphia 76ers’ roster. His absence was felt in the second game as the 76ers’ defense allowed Boston Celtics to shoot 51.2% against them.
Even though Ben Simmons is a big miss, the 76ers will have to learn how to cope without him if they want to best the Celtics in the series. Coach Brett Brown will need one of his key players to fill that void and offer the same services as Simmons in both ends of the court.